If this all sounds familiar, it should. A lot of areas were in the competition when Boeing was looking for a place to build the 787 Dreamliner, and a lot were also in the hunt when Airbus – the corporate name at the time was EADS – was looking for a site to build aerial tankers.
Aircraft assembly lines are one of the real jewels of economic development. In addition to the value of the assembly line itself and the workers who are hired, it also has a big impact on the supply chain. Companies worldwide start lining up to supply a variety of items for the new jetliner.
Areas along the Gulf Coast were among the finalists for the 787 site, but Boeing eventually decided to build it in Washington State, home of Boeing’s manufacturing center. It later opened up a second line in South Carolina. And the EADS plan? Mobile was chosen, and while the company did not win its bid to build the tankers, Mobile did become the site for what is arguably a far better deal, the A320 series assembly line.
And now Mobile will become the site for a second assembly line, this one to build Bombardier CSeries jetliners. So will Mobile or other regional economic development officials go ahead and make a pitch for the 797 aircraft?
Panelists at the recent Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference held in Mobile had something akin to a why-not attitude. Certainly South Carolina, home to Boeings second 787 final assembly line, seems a natural to put in a bid. So too Alabama, where both Mobile and Huntsville are powerful contenders for aerospace production operations. Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi are also potential contenders with their own aerospace claims to fame.
We know of one area for sure that's in the hunt. Washington State is already preparing to do what it can to keep work on the New Midrange Aircraft – called the 797 – in that state. A Teal Group analysis, commissioned by a Washington coalition, was highly favorable for Washington and its skilled aerospace workers, and of course the state is holding up that study as ammunition.
It will be up to the other cities and states whether to make a pitch to Boeing, and while some of the preparatory work may be happening behind the scenes, it all depends on whether Boeing gives the thumbs up to the project and opens it up to bidders.
It makes sense that any location that was on the short list for the 787 and aerial tanker might consider going after this project. There are some must-haves for a project of this nature, including a port so sections can be shipped in, a runway where the finished product can tested and then turned over to a customer. And of course it needs to show it has the skilled workforce needed for aerospace work.
The 797, intended to fill the market betweeen the 737 and 787, was just one of the topics that came up during the week at the two-day inaugural Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference held at Mobile’s Battle House Hotel.
During Wednesday's gathering, officials said ground would be broken this year for the new Bombardier CSeries assembly line that will be built in Mobile, a move that by 2021 will make Mobile the world’s fourth largest jetliner assembly center and second largest in North America.
The CSeries plant will be next to the Airbus A320 final assembly line at the Mobile Aeroplex as a result of a partnership between the two manufacturers that will be finalized Sunday. That happens to be Canada Day – the celebration of the day in 1867 that three colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick merged into a single dominion.
During the conference, Rob Dewar, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Aerospace, who becomes head of customer services and engineering Sunday, said he expects the first CSeries jetliner built in Mobile to be delivered in mid-2020.
The assembly line in Mobile will build the CS100 and CS300, which have the same assembly process. The difference is the CS300 has a longer fuselage. Dewar said it would take about a year to build the assembly line, which eventually will produce four jetliners per month and employ 400 workers.
The aircraft, by the way, will get a new name, but the announcement has not yet been made.
Daryl Taylor, vice president and general manager of the Airbus U.S. Manufacturing Facility, said at the conference that Airbus in Mobile has delivered 75 jetliners to seven customers. The most recent was delivered Tuesday to Frontier Airlines.
He said the Mobile facility is beginning a new chapter with the CSeries assembly line. He said that by 2021, Mobile will be the fourth largest jetliner manufacturing center in the world, and second largest in North America. (Post)
About 115 participants from 10 countries were on hand Tuesday for the opening session. They were welcomed by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson, who noted that Mobile’s history with aerospace goes back many years, but the footprint is destined to get larger.
Also coming up during the conference was a study that said it was feasible for Mobile to shift commercial jetliner service from Mobile Regional Airport in west Mobile to the downtown airport, closer to Interstate 10 and downtown.
Chris Curry, executive director of the Mobile Airport Authority, said moving commercial service will not hinder industrial tenants, like Airbus, who were consulted during the study to ensure any move would not jeopardize their operations. (Post)
The Leeham Company/Airfinance Journal conference will be at a different location in the Southeast next year. Scott Hamilton of Leeham Co., said it's always been the intent of organizers to rotate the annual conference. Nobody asked me, but for what it's worth Scott, put South Louisiana and South Mississippi on the list of potential sites for a conference. That's where you'll find Stennis Space Center and Michoud Assembly Facility, both involved in NASA and commercial space programs. You might also consider Northwest Florida, where Eglin Air Force Base is home of the F-35 integrated training center and the place where the Air Force develops its aerial-launched weapons. Just a thought.
Hamilton said the intent of the inaugural conference was to introduce the Southeast and its aerospace clusters to suppliers who aren’t familiar with opportunities in the Southeast. This year’s focus was the transformation that’s underway in manufacturing that suppliers must prepare for and the innovation that’s coming to produce future airplane.
We’ll have multiple stories resulting from this conference in the August issue of the Gulf Coast Aerospace Corridor Newsletter.
Also during the week:
Northrop Grumman has added an operational area to its Moss Point, Miss.-based manufacturing center. The 101,000-square-foot Moss Point facility has been doing work on unmanned fixed-wing and rotary-wing systems since 2006.
The expanded production facility can now accommodate projects on manned aircraft systems and will bring 60 new jobs to Moss Point. The number of employees at the site grow by more than 40 percent since 2017, officials said.
Gov. Phil Bryant and members of Mississippi’s federal and state delegations attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the official launch of the new machine shop section at the Moss Point facility. Northrop previously said it would do subassembly work on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Moss Point. (Post)
The U.S. Navy is preparing future plans to construct detention centers for up to 25,000 illegal immigrants on remote bases in Alabama, Arizona and California, according to a copy of a draft memo obtained by TIME.
The Navy planning document outlines plans to build tent cities for up to 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields in Baldwin County, Ala., at Navy Outlying Field Wolf in Orange Beach and NOF Silverhill.
But U.S. Sen. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), said he’s prepared to fight a migrant camp in Baldwin County. "We have successfully fought efforts to house illegal immigrants in Baldwin County before, and we will do the same again because the proposal makes no sense," Byrne said. (Post)
Australia is to acquire six Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton maritime unmanned aerial systems, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced during the week. The first RAAF Triton is scheduled to be delivered in mid-2023.
Triton can fly at altitudes above 50,000 feet and has an endurance of more than 24 hours. Northrop Grumman does fuselage work on Triton in Moss Point, Miss. (Post)
-- The Coast Guard will equip National Security Cutter ships with ScanEagle unmanned aircraft, including the cutter Decisive that arrived at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., in June.
Decisive is one of four cutters expected to change homeports to Pensacola this year. The drones have aided the Coast Guard in the interdiction of $1.5 billion worth of cocaine and heroin off the coasts of Central and South America.
The drone weighs 40 pounds and can fly up to 20 hours. (Post)
Bell Boeing JPO, Amarillo, Texas, was awarded $4.2 billion for a modification to convert the previously awarded V-22 tiltrotor aircraft advance acquisition contract to a fixed-price-incentive-fee multiyear contract. This contract provides for the manufacture and delivery of 39 CMV-22B aircraft for the Navy; 34 MV-22B aircraft for the Marine Corps; 1 CV-22B for the Air Force; and 4 MV-22B aircraft for the government of Japan. One work location is Crestview, Fla., where 0.72 percent of the work will be performed. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded $19.9 million for a modification to a previously awarded cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the low rate initial production Lot 10 Non-Annualized Sustainment Contract Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) 3.0 rollout. This modification provides for the ALIS 3.0 software fleet release and installation into operational and production ALIS assets as well as required training to U.S. Government and international partner personnel in support of the F-35 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Northrop Grumman Systems Corp., Annapolis, Md., was awarded a $14.3 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for the fabrication, testing, production and delivery of AN/AQS-24C mine hunting sonar systems. The system is deployed from the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter. Seventeen percent of the work will be performed in Panama City, Fla. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $96.1 million modification to a contract for Lot 11 Miniature Air Launched Decoy Jammer vehicles and support equipment. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., was awarded a $93 million contract for Small Diameter Bomb II (SDB II) F/A-18E/F integration. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … A. Finkl & Sons Co., Chicago, was awarded a $419.6 million contract for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production. This contract provides for the production of the BLU-137/B penetrator warhead bodies with a guaranteed production of 300 bodies during the first year with a possibility of up to 3,500 bodies in the subsequent four years. Air force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Superior Forge and Steel Corp., Lima, Ohio, was awarded a $476.9 million contract for BLU-137/B penetrator warhead production. This contract provides for the production of the BLU-137/B penetrator warhead bodies with a guaranteed production of 300 bodies during the first year with a possibility of up to 3,500 bodies in the subsequent four years. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., is the contracting activity. … Enterprise Electronics Corp., Enterprise, Ala., was awarded an $11.6 million contract for the procurement of Supplemental Weather Radars (SWR) systems and associated sustainment services. Work will be performed in Enterprise and is expected to be completed by June 2023. Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity. … The Boeing Co., St. Louis, Mo., was awarded a $1.5 billion contract that provides for the production and delivery of 22 F/A-18E and six F/A-18F Super Hornets in support of the government of Kuwait. Fort Walton Beach, Fla., will perform 0.8 percent of the work. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity. … Lockheed Martin Corp., Fort Worth, Texas, was awarded a $73.6 million modification to a previously awarded contract to stand-up depots outside the continental U.S. for the maintenance, repair, overhaul, and upgrade of the F-35 aircraft. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.